The trillion-dollar man Featured

7:56am EDT January 30, 2004
In cleaning out my files for our recent office move, I ran across an old article from Fast Company magazine: "The Trillion-Dollar Vision of Dee Hock."

"Dee who?" you are probably asking. Some 30 years ago, Hock developed a revolutionary global system for the electronic exchange of value. While you may not know Hock, you know his brainchild: Just open your wallet and pull out your Visa card.

I consider Hock one of the great visionaries of our time, his talents made all the more impressive by the fact that he put his ideas into action and created a monumentally successful business -- some would say the biggest enterprise in the world -- while keeping a low profile.

I'm sharing some of the key philosophies I gleaned from that article in the hope that you can benefit from them. I encourage you to read the entire article, available online at

* Business plans. Are you looking for a ironclad plan for success? Don't take Visa's, it won't work for you, Hock says. Neither will any long-term plan.

"The world is changing too fast, making detailed plans obsolete before you can implement them," he tells the magazine. "What we all need is a clear sense of direction and beliefs in which we operate by, and this lies within each one of us."

Instead, he advises, define a purpose for your organization that everyone can believe in. Then devise principles to help you achieve that purpose. It's hard work -- it took a year at Visa -- but it is essential for everyone to be on the same page.

* Employees. People make up an organization, and Hock's view toward "associates" is unflinching: "Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience. Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind."

* Compensation. Hock's take on money is enlightening: "Money motivates neither the best people, nor the best in people," he says. "It can move the body and influence the mind, but it cannot touch the heart or move the spirit. That is reserved for belief, principle and morality."

* Leadership. Hock calls this "the very heart and soul of the matter." Leaders must first understand that they "work for" their subordinates, not the other way around. "Lead yourself, lead your superiors, lead your peers and free your people to do the same. All else is trivia."